Page 261 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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questions on notice. Minister, is the Stanhope government still committed to the construction of a dragway in the ACT and what progress has been made to identify a suitable site?

MR BARR: I thank Mr Stefaniak for the question. Members would be aware, as a result of previous questions on this matter, that the government undertook an extensive consultation, survey and environmental assessment process in relation to the two sites that were identified in the Majura Valley and found that those did not meet the environmental standards as set out. So it became apparent that a dragway could not be constructed on those sites and we would then need to look at alternative sites.

Last year, I wrote to the former federal government—to the territories minister, the minister for finance and the Minister for Defence—seeking possible alternative sites that were currently commonwealth-owned land. Minister Lloyd responded reasonably quickly, within about two months of my original letter, indicating that, yes, the commonwealth may have alternative sites, and asked his department to liaise with mine around investigating possible options. I think it took between six and nine months to get responses from Senator Minchin, the then finance minister, and Brendan Nelson, who was then the defence minister, indicating that, no, they did not have further sites. The specific question I had asked in relation to the possibility of the commonwealth returning the original dragway site for use was specifically ruled out by the previous federal government.

I then undertook, upon the change of government, to write to the new ministers. I have received a response from Minister Debus, indicating similar advice to that provided by Minister Lloyd—that there are a couple of sites, the same sites that Minister Lloyd provided, but unfortunately they are not suitable for a dragway. They are either closer to households in north Canberra than the previous two sites or they involve a former defence site which I understand is contaminated and has unexploded ordnance—a range of issues that make it unsuitable. At this stage I am still waiting to hear back from Minister Tanner and the new defence minister, Minister Fitzgibbon, as to whether there is any change in the commonwealth’s position in relation to land that may be held within those portfolios. The government provided money in the 2004-05 budget, and continued to roll over that money to make it available for a dragway. But until a suitable site can be found, it is not possible to expend that money.

MR SPEAKER: Is there a supplementary question?

MR STEFANIAK: Thanks, Mr Speaker. Minister, I reiterate: is your government still committed to the construction of a dragway? What other expenditure has been apportioned to the dragway and how much of that $8 million remains for actual construction of the dragway?

MR BARR: I reiterate the position I have just put: should a suitable site be located, the government has allocated $8 million. Mr Stefaniak, in his initial question, indicated—and I believe the figure to be correct—that $165,000 had been expended on the various studies around sections 51 and 52 in the Majura Valley. That is the only money that has been expended out of the $8 million. The remainder of that money remains available should a suitable site be found.

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